ASOPOF cover My novella, A Spell of Passion or Fear, isn’t quite traditional steampunk. Rather than an alternative Victorian era, it’s set in a world influenced by Ancient Greece, which, from the mythical Daedalus to the historical Archytus of Tarentum, had its share of creative inventors and mechanical wizardry. Technology has impacted both my heroes–Ariston, a former warrior in the service of his city-state, finds himself replaced by more reliable automatons, and Phaleas is a mechanic and servant to these new Guardians. How they respond to their changing world brings them together, but also puts them and their relationship at risk.

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1. What does Steampunk mean to you?
Speculative fiction where the speculative element involves ‘transplanted’ technology. This tech doesn’t necessarily have to be steam-powered (I favor a clockpunk aesthetic myself), and ‘transplanted’ might in the end be a matter of opinion. In many places around the world people use technology that could look out of place, as when rural African farmers who plow their fields with oxen or by hand catch up with their urban relatives by cell phone.  Social scientists have a word for this: ‘leapfrogging,’ bypassing stages of technological innovation that previously appeared necessary. Basically, I enjoy having reader expectations subverted, in a way that prompts rethinking of the possibilities of science and society.What does this have to do with romance? Well, romance is about people, and people are the way they are because of their environment–a steampunk world creates unique characters compared to a contemporary, historical, or alternative speculative fiction setting. Plus it looks pretty and is fun to play around with.
2. What is your favorite thing about steampunk or writing about steampunk?
It asks you to reexamine what is possible at a given historical period. There’s always potential for surprise.
3. What is your favorite steampunk accessory?

In all honesty my favorite steampunk-related object is a gift I bought my sister–a opened-up watch with brilliant gem bearings. It was supposed to be turned into jewelry, but the jeweler had barely started work; it was beautiful just as it was and I demanded to buy it. I love colorful things, shiny things, and things that go whirrrl and make magic.

4. What turned you on to steampunk?

Watching Smaurai 7, an anime version of Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai movie. So from the beginning I’ve looked at steampunk exploring many different eras and cultures.

5. Do you have any upcoming Steampunk stories you can tell us about?

None currently slated for publication, but I’m definitely writing something to submit to Dreamspinner’s new steampunk anthology–part of the backstory of A Spell of Passion or Fear’s universe. There a lot more to explore in that setting; I expect I’ll be returning to it again and again.

6. Who is your favorite character of all from one of your Steampunk stories?

I love all of them! But I surprised myself with how much sympathy I felt in the end for Eudaimon, the automaton Guardian that Phaleas serves.

7. What’s the hardest thing about creating a Steampunk universe?

Figuring out the logic of it. When, if ever, did this world diverge from real-world history? Or is it a future dystopia where much has been lost or reinvented? What sort of technology is available? Do they have telegraph? Modern medicine? Freight trains?

8. What’s the easiest thing about creating a Steampunk universe?

For me, finding historical inspiration. Ancient Greece, medieval Japan, Victorian England, Europe in the World Wars, the Atlantic in the Age of Sail (which was also, hmm, the heyday of Neoclassicism, bringing us back to Greece)–there’s always a situation you can make more interesting by adding a robot or a flying machine.

9. What does steampunk allow you to do as a writer that no other genres can?

Play with fantasy while pretending to be scientific. It’s also a way to encounter the technology that was cutting-edge, with huge potential, in the past. Science fiction as a whole is highly future-oriented, while fantasy fiction is not so interested in the rigorous detail/plausibility. Historical fiction is tied down by what actually happened. Mix all three together, and it’s almost enough fun that I’d say you could forget the romance–except when it comes to reading and writing there’s no such thing as too much fun!

10. What are the challenges and advantages to writing a steampunk story?

You either have to know something about engineering, or be able to disguise what you don’t know. This can be difficult as I think the steampunk readership is very into understanding how things work and fit together. But that also opens up a lot of room for worldbuilding and exploration of ideas, situations, and characters.

11. How much research does it take and how much imagination?

For me it’s largely imagination, but a lot of the time that’s because I get story ideas from fun reading I hadn’t considered “research” at the time. You do need to think about how to blend in what you know and either figure out or cloak what you don’t know. Plus lots of notes in the margins to “look this up later!”